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..i don't understand what is gained by creating one thread on strikes around pensions in france. struggles are connected. if you want a different thread title lets just change it. no need to lampoon this one where important content lives. 

France strikes against Macron's neoliberal war on pensions


The immediate cause of the strikes is Macron’s flagship attack on pensions, transforming the way they are calculated and effectively abolishing the final salary based pensions which are common in the public sector. This follows on from the raising of the pension age by President Sarkozy despite a huge fightback in 2010, and the increase in levels of worker contributions necessary for a full pension under President Hollande in 2013.

Students, who have already been mobilising since a 22-year-old set himself on fire in Lyon last month in protest against student poverty, will be joining the fray. Diverse spokespeople from the Yellow Vest movement, which has been blockading, rallying and sometimes rioting for a year now, have called for all-out support for the strikes, and the national Yellow Vest delegate meeting in Montpellier in November issued a call to action. Nurses, who have been striking en masse against understaffing and low pay for weeks, will be present, too. This week, a firefighters’ protest is occupying Republic Square in the centre of Paris day and night, while popular recent mobilisations against violence against women, and for action on climate change have helped build a combative atmosphere in the country. The major centre-left magazine Le Nouvel Observateur headlined last week: “Half Way through Macron’s Presidency: The Fear of Insurrection”.

Neoliberal governments have for decades been working at rolling back welfare state provision and installing full-spectrum Thatcherism, and workers have seen a number of defeats, though they have been able to protect provisions in several cases too. Sadly, important victories for workers over pensions in 1995 (after trains and metros were blocked for a month), and against a Youth Employment Contract in 2006 are fading from memories. 2016 saw a major defeat on labour contract laws, and a new victory is now sorely needed to restore some confidence.

War of position

There is a war of position going on in every sector of the economy. In education, short staffing, a harsh lack of capital investment and a sharp increase in temporary contracts have been pushed through. But in 2009, months of lecturer strikes buried the government’s plan for neoliberal personnel management in universities, and resistance has ensured that for the moment collegiate leadership and fixed national wage scales and promotion decisions, in both universities and schools, is the norm. Meanwhile, tuition fees for universities have stayed around three hundred euros: governments have not dared to raise them much.

Support for local government services from national funds has been cut sharply, using the excuse of lowering local taxation, though social housing is still being built at a far higher rate than in comparable countries. In Health, staff cuts and ward closures have been hitting hard, and the percentage of health costs which are not paid by public funds has been rising gradually.

What is Macron doing to pensions?

The new pension bill has been carefully written, with plenty of blanks “which we will fill in later after negotiations”, and the government is refusing to say which generation will be the first affected. The reform masquerades as a rationalisation of the present patchwork system, but few are fooled, though the government argument that pension costs must be reduced does find an echo at times. In fact, there is plenty of money available, as can be seen by the huge tax cuts for the richest which Macron has pushed through, the largest for decades.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

French Unions and Yellow Vests Converge, Launch General Strike

On the eve of an “unlimited” (open-ended) General Strike called for Dec. 5, more and more unions and protest groups are pledging to join in.

Two things are unusual about this strike. The first is that it is open-ended, rather than the usual one-day of ritualistic protest marches, and may be prolonged from day to day by workers’ assemblies. The second is that the Yellow Vests, the self-organized, horizontal, social movement that sprung up spontaneously just over a year ago and is still popular despite severe repression, have decided to converge with the strike, and that the CGT’s Martinez, who had originally spurned the Yellow Vests, immediately welcomed them, making for a heady mix. For the union leaders, who try to control their followers tightly, the Yellow Vests are like a loose canon on the deck of a ship. Who knows what may result?

The Camel’s Back

This latest, and most sweeping of Macron’s two years’ string of neo-liberal attacks on social welfare may prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back; and camels are dangerously irascible animals known to bite or kick their masters to death when mistreated.

The French were already in an angry mood in the Spring of 2018 when Macron started pushing through his reforms, but they were disappointed when the CGT and other union leaders imposed only stop-and-go, limited, local strikes and failed utterly to counter-attack. It was on the grave of those defeats that the spontaneous Yellow Vest movements sprung up like mushrooms all over France last November, supported by over 70% of the French.

Although justifiably suspicious of unions, especially of the union leaders, the Yellow Vests, after suffering a year of police brutality and prejudiced media coverage, came around to the need for convergence. Thus, at our fourth national Assembly of Assemblies on Nov. 3, we voted to join and “be at the heart” of the Dec. 5 movement in the hope that “a defeat for the government would open the road to other victories for our camp.”

Will the union leaders like Martinez stay the course? If they try to settle with Macron piecemeal and divide the movement as they have in the past, will the workers’ assemblies be able to stop them? Will the strike over retirement benefits develop along broad social revolutionary lines like similar horizontal movements in South America, the Middle East and elsewhere? Will these international movements finally connect, as the Yellow Vests’ Assembly of Assembly proposed when it dedicated our first anniversary to social movements around the world?

The nation-wide strike was originally proposed by Philippe Martinez, Secretary General of CGT, France’s largest union federation, in response to the Macron Governments’ proposed neoliberal “reform” of the France retirement system. Macron’s reform would essentially gut France’s solidarity-based retirement system. Even more than U.S. Social Security, which even Trump and the Republicans don’t dare touch, retirement over here is a sacred cow. It was established at the end of WWII when the Resistance and the Communists were influential and the business class was in bad odor, having collaborated with the Nazis. Under Macron’s proposed new ‘point’ system, many will lose up to 30% according to estimates, and future governments could arbitrarily decide how much money each point is worth!....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Last Straw as Teachers in France Join Nationwide Strike

One of the many groups taking part in the massive general strike in France this week, and joining forces with the year-long Yellow Jackets movement, are the country’s public school teachers. The “coup de grâce” for teachers was the Macron administration’s proposed teacher pension reform, in which retirement payments would be calculated based upon salaries earned throughout a teacher’s career rather than their last paychecks.

In other words, a teacher’s earnings as a new graduate and during the years they gained experience and possibly pursued advanced training or specializations would carry equal weight in calculating the amount they would receive upon retiring from service in public education years and decades later.

One teacher’s union put it this way. A retiree with a 40 year career in teaching might have finally attained a salary of 3,200 euros a month. Right now, they would retire with 2,281 euros a month, but after the reforms, that would decrease to 1,803 euros.

All in all, it’s a disingenuous way for a neo-liberal government to claw back the final thanks offered to yet another group of civil servants in the name of budgets and saving costs. But it is also another example of neoliberalism’s war on public education....


And yet UK Labour fights tooth and nail to remain in such an EU enforced neoliberal butcher shop.


Yes, that is a huge cut. Jacobin also has a couple of articles that explain the movement well for people unfamiliar with French politics.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

French workers' movement must really explode to beat Macron

Philippe Poutou was the New Anticapitalist Party’s (NPA) candidate in the in 2012 and 2017 presidential elections. He works in a Ford car factory in Bordeaux.


The national coordinating committee (intersyndicale) of France’s most important trade unions (which includes CGT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, MNL, UNL and UNEF) has called for a new day of mobilizations (strikes and demonstrations) on Tuesday, December 10. The intersyndicale was encouraged by the magnitude of demonstrations and strikes that took place on December 5, and it is feeling the pressure to continue.

What a relief! This means there will be a sequel to Thursday’s outpouring, another focal point to build a social movement which playing for the highest stakes. If we want to force the government to bend on its pension reform and, beyond that, to compel it to respond to France’s social emergencies, confrontation is inevitable.

The trade union confederations’ leaderships are wavering between radical rhetoric (aiming for withdrawal of the pension reform) and tinkering with mobilization on a piecemeal basis without actually attempting to, in practice, coordinate struggle between different sectors, support general assemblies of strikers at the city-wide level, or help organize various actions between the December 5 and 10 demonstrations.

The huge demonstrations of Thursday 5 show that the anger is there for all to see. And trust between activists, strikers, and protesters is slowly recovering as are hopes that we might be able to change the game plan, to overcome the ludicrous idea that one day of protest will be enough to win the battle. At the same time, activists and strikers are feeling the stress, worried that we might fail to transform this confrontation into a fight that involves millions of people, one which allows us to train those who support the actions (69 percent, say the polls) so that they themselves become actors, so they participate in the demonstrations, strikes, and economic blockades.

This is a showdown, and there is not much room for error. December 5 was already quite late on the calendar and the holidays can be complicated for us. But everything is possible today. We have reasons to doubt our strength, we have suffered many blows, we have suffered many defeats, both the number of work-place organizing teams and the overall number of militants have fallen. Yet we have many reasons to be hopeful because, for all the suffering and despair, the necessity of expressing our dignity is also apparent.

We know our movement must really explode, in the street, in neighborhoods, in workplaces. We must shake the government and the haves to their core. This is the only way to reverse the balance of power.

The government talks, it seeks to calm the situation, it adopts a more moderate stance, it speaks of negotiation, compromise. But no compromise is possible, no negotiation is possible.....


WATCH: "Macron 'negotiates' with demonstrators by getting his Riot Police thugs to bludgeon people on the picket line at the Pleyel Bus Depot in Paris."


"I'm just wondering why none of the mainstream media or press is reporting one of the biggest strikes in Europe!! I mean this has been going on EVERY day for a year or so!! Is this not what you would class as news anymore? I think it's pretty EPIC!!" (and vid)


Perhaps the msm don't wish to put ideas in our heads...

swallow swallow's picture

That's reported in the Toronto Star, National Post, Agence France Presse, The Guardian, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera and many other mainstream media outlets within the past 24 hours.

Perhaps your twitter friend simply isn't reading enough mainstream media. THIS IS TONGUE IN CHEEK, OF COURSE. 


It is in the news every day in Québec. Perhaps you'd have to learn French.


French Unions Revolting Against the Elite

"Protests by French trade unions have now joined the weekly Yellow Vest demonstrations, aiming to pressure President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his government's plans to alter the nation's pension system..."


'The People Shout in Paris!' (and vid)

(We should do the same.)


Understanding France's General Strike in the Context of the Yellow Vests and Global Class Warfare

"Labor and capital are at loggerheads in France. As the open-ended strike launched on December 5th against a neoliberal overhaul of the pension system continues to expand, the Macron regime has dug in its heels to defend the advantages this so-called reform would have for the wealthy (even though it has recently been forced to present what it considers to be a 'compromise' to the union leadership). In order to fully understand the nature and importance of this battle, it needs to be situated in relation to the recent history of the Yellow vests movement as well as the global context of contemporary class warfare...


"Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men"


Corporate Media is Ignoring the General Strike in France

"France is in turmoil and all we hear is crickets. What gives?"


While it should get more attention here than it has, it is not true here in Québec that there is a mass media boycott of the general strike in France. I read news reports and commentary about it every day here. Of course I read alternative and left media as well.


lagatta4 wrote:

While it should get more attention here than it has, it is not true here in Québec that there is a mass media boycott of the general strike in France. I read news reports and commentary about it every day here. Of course I read alternative and left media as well.

However it is very under reported on BC's media. I read about it from links provided by people on line. If you find pieces that are well written please share because it not an issue on the Tyee or our other progressive media either.


French Popular Uprising: Revolution or Frozen Conflict?

"The current ongoing social unrest in France appears to pit a majority of working people against President Emmanuel Macron. But since Macron is merely a technocratic tool of global financial governance, the conflict is essentially an uprising against policies that pit the avaricious demands of financial markets ahead of the needs of the people. This basic conflict is at the root of the weekly demonstrations of Yellow Vest protesters who have been demonstrating every Saturday for well over a year, despite brutal police repression. Now trade unionists, public sector workers and Yellow Vests demonstrate together...The Macron economic reform policy was essentially defined in Brussels. But Wall Street is interested as well..."